Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
My Aunt
By Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894)
MY aunt! my dear unmarried aunt!
  Long years have o’er her flown;
Yet still she strains the aching clasp
  That binds her virgin zone;
I know it hurts her—though she looks        5
  As cheerful as she can;
Her waist is ampler than her life,
  For life is but a span.
My aunt, my poor deluded aunt!
  Her hair is almost gray;        10
Why will she train that winter curl
  In such a spring-like way?
How can she lay her glasses down,
  And say she reads as well,
When, through a double convex lens,        15
  She just makes out to spell?
Her father—grandpapa! forgive
  This erring lip its smiles—
Vowed she would make the finest girl
  Within a hundred miles.        20
He sent her to a stylish school;
  ’Twas in her thirteenth June;
And with her, as the rules required,
  “Two towels and a spoon.”
They braced my aunt against a board,        25
  To make her straight and tall;
They laced her up, they starved her down,
  To make her light and small;
They pinched her feet, they singed her hair,
  They screwed it up with pins—        30
Oh, never mortal suffered more
  In penance for her sins.
So, when my precious aunt was done,
  My grandsire brought her back
(By daylight, lest some rabid youth        35
  Might follow on the track);
“Ah!” said my grandsire, as he shook
  Some powder in his pan,
“What could this lovely creature do
  Against a desperate man!”        40
Alas! nor chariot nor barouche
  Nor bandit cavalcade
Tore from the trembling father’s arms
  His all-accomplished maid.
For her how happy had it been!        45
  And Heaven had spared to me
To see one sad, ungathered rose
  On my ancestral tree.

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